In Hawaii, a lot of personal decisions come down to living in a place where a gallon of orange juice can cost more than eight bucks  — and a national study says it takes a wage of $36 per hour to pay for an “affordable” two-bedroom apartment,

Civil Beat reporter Anita Hofschneider, in her story on multi-generational families, calls the punishing cost of living Hawaii’s “unofficial tax.” For lower income and middle class alike, it often defines where they live and how far they commute, whether they can afford childcare, what percentage of their income they scrape together to pay for their kids’ education — or whether they or their relatives wind up staying in Hawaii.

This week, the state’s schools delivered an all-too-familiar report: More than 400 public school teachers left for the mainland last year — 70 percent higher than five years ago. No one doubts cost of living is a big factor. And experts don’t doubt the price of paradise plays a role in the island’s flat or shrinking population.

Civil Beat is reviving its popular series, “Living Hawaii,” to explore the multiple ways high prices impact the way we live — and the critical way affordability is shaping the islands’ social and economic future. The high cost of living has long been part of the bargain in Hawaii, and this year it was front and center in the governor’s race and other political campaigns.

Honolulu Condominium height restriction Kakaako.
Kakaako is one of Honolulu’s fastest growing and priciest neighborhoods. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Our Thursday story, “10 Family members, 4 Bedrooms And ‘A Dream To Have Your Own Place,” follows a Mililani couple who by choice — and necessity — continue living under a single roof with their relatives even as their own family grows. We’re also working on an upcoming story about the exacting toll of long commutes.

As part of our reporting, Civil Beat is also on the lookout for possible solutions — promising ways individuals, businesses, nonprofits and government are responding to the high cost of living.

What companies are pursuing innovative ways for recruiting workers, and keeping them in Hawaii once they land them? How do we make up for the critical shortage of doctors? What can we learn from policies put in place elsewhere for creating reasonably priced housing or making cities more family-affordable? Will growing more food locally translate into lower grocery bills?

We also want to hear your stories — and ignite a broader public conversation.

We’ve created a new newsletter, HI Priced, where readers can share their experiences. In the first piece, a Kaneohe women offers her tactics for living on $70,000 a year.

On Friday, Civil Beat will host a Hawaii Storytellers event on “How I Make Ends Meet.” You can share your thoughts in our Cost of Living Facebook group, and offer your ideas here for what cost-of-living stories we ought to cover. We’ll also be visiting communities around Oahu and the neighbor islands to talk with residents about these issues.

We invite you to take part in “Living Hawaii.”

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